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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Feedback: Big Sur document icons are illegible

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.


Recent Similar Reports: None
Resolution: Open
Please provide a descriptive title for your feedback: Finder icons in List View, Small Icon, are generic and unintelligble.

Please describe the issue and what steps we can take to reproduce it:

Set a Finder window into list view, with the icon size set to the smaller of the two sizes.

In Big Sur, documents associated with many apps appear to not use custom icons, but rather use a generic white document image with a small thumbnail of the app icon at the center. At the small icon size in list view, this icon appears to be 32×32.

New-style Big Sur document icons (top) are much harder to differentiate than the older version.

A surprising amount of information can be imparted in those 1,024 pixels, even at retina resolutions. Color and patterns provide helpful cues about which document is which in a folder list. I use this all the time to, for example, differentiate the Logic Pro project file from assorted media files in a project folder.

Unfortunately, this new Big Sur behavior requires me to attempt to see the icon placed on the blank generic document icon — an icon that’s about 12×12. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between documents that use this same approach.

Some apps support preview icons at this size (which is itself problematic), but some don’t; Logic Pro, for example, does not, so I’m left with trying to differentiate one 12×12 icon on a generic white rectangle from another one.

Solution: At small sizes, Finder should honor .icns files wherever possible and provide actual unique document icon designs that are viewable at small sizes.

Thank you for your consideration.

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